How to Shoot Like Michael Jordan?

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Michael Jordan was an unbelievable scorer. However, unlike today’s best point-getters, he was never considered a shooter like Stephen Curry, James Harden, or Kevin Durant. Instead of mastering three-point bombs, he did most of his work in the mid-range.

So, while it’s not as much of a heart-breaker for defenders as a clutch three-pointer, watching him sink mid-rangers at efficiency rates similar to other players’ layup percentages can be just as demoralizing. It’s not at all surprising, therefore, that a lot of young players are asking: how to shoot a basketball like Michael Jordan? If you’re one of them, here’s a breakdown of his shooting mechanics and how you can use them to improve your own game.

Michael Jordan's Shooting MechanicsMichael Jordan’s Shooting Mechanics

Efficiency is often a word people use to describe Jordan’s shooting mechanics. He uses his powerful legs to generate lift and achieve a high release point in his shot. He uses his large hands to give the ball the ideal backspin. He also uses his strong core muscles to stabilize his upper body when executing his iconic fadeaways.

Efficient lift through leg strength

If you pay attention to how Jordan’s shots fall into the basket, you’ll notice that it almost always swishes in instead of rattling in. This is because the lift and arc of his shot are primarily generated by his much more powerful legs instead of his arms. Using his legs to generate lift allowed him to become the volume shooter he was during his era.

Jordan also releases his shot at the apex of his jump, using the momentum to increase lift on his arc and improve his shot fluidity.

Large hands for backspin

Aside from giving him the ability to grip the ball like an orange, Jordan’s freakishly large hands create the perfect backspin whenever he shoots the ball. It creates what’s known as the Magnus effect, giving the shot just the right arc so that it falls into the hoop. This phenomenon gifted his shots with that beautiful, effective, and oh-so-deadly backspin.

Engaged core for stability

When Jordan sets up for a jump shot, his core muscles are engaged first — aligning his spine, setting his balance, and preparing his body for the coordinated sequence of actions that are about to come. Then, as he explodes off the ground and into the air, his core strength further comes into play, stabilizing his body in mid-air and allowing him to maintain control over his movements with grace.

Even in those split seconds when his hand released the ball for the shot, his core muscles kept Jordan’s body stable and prevented any unnecessary movement that might throw off the shot. The result? A swish sound that sent chills down the spines of his opponents, time and time again.

Tucked elbow, arm extension, and follow-through

Of course, it’s not just his core strength that keeps his shot straight. His arms also have a huge impact on the straightness of his shots.

Like numerous adept shooters, Jordan’s elbow was tucked right under the ball while shooting. This position was instrumental in achieving a straight shot and the necessary power that would translate into the arc and trajectory of the ball.

How to Practice Shooting Like Michael Jordan: 3 DrillsHow to Practice Shooting Like Michael Jordan: 3 Drills

Here are three shooting drills that’ll help you shoot like Mike:

Spin Out Shooting Drill (Individual)

If you’re working on your game away from your team, the spin-out shooting drill is probably the best way to get the most repetitions up. All that’s needed is you, the ball, and the hoop.

  1. Start with the ball under the basket.
  2. Throw the ball into a midrange area with a backspin.
  3. Run towards the ball, hop, and catch the ball with your back still towards the basket.
  4. Turn towards the basket into a triple threat position and launch into your shooting motion in one motion.
  5. Rebound the ball and restart the drill from step 1.

One-Hand Form-Shooting Drill (Individual)

Hand positioning can be the toughest to perfect, so isolating this part of your jump shot can be extremely beneficial. Form-shooting drills from different areas on the court can help you get a feel for how your hand should be positioned when you shoot.

  1. You can begin this drill at the block facing the basket.
  2. Hold the ball in your shooting hand, near your right temple if you’re a right-hander and your left temple if you’re a lefty.
  3. The arm should form a 90-degree angle with your triceps parallel to the floor, positioned directly above your dominant leg.
  4. Bend your knees as if you’re going to gather for a jump shot while trying to keep your body stable by engaging your core muscles.
  5. Execute your regular shooting motion minus the jump.
  6. It’s important to keep your elbows tucked in as you extend your arm.
  7. Time your release just as you’re about to reach the full extension of your leg to maximize the upward momentum, increasing the arc on the shot.
  8. Rebound and find another spot to shoot from
  9. Do this drill farther away from the basket until your shots no longer reach the rim, typically near the free-throw line or 15 feet from the rim?

Alternating footwork (requires a rebounder)

His footwork is one of the most subtle but extremely important parts of Jordan’s shooting form. It allows him to be unpredictable and catch his defenders flat-footed when he goes for a mid-ranger. Combined with his strong core, this allows him to explode quickly off the floor and fade away for a jump shot or even his signature. Here’s one drill that can help keep you unpredictable with your jump shot.

With the ball in your hand, stand in a triple threat position slightly farther from where you want to shoot.

  1. Execute a one-dribble pull-up using your dominant leg to push off into the shot.
  2. The rebounder gets the ball and passes it back to the shooter.
  3. Execute a one-dribble pull-up jumper with your non-dominant leg initiating the push-off.
  4. Repeat step 2 until you’ve done ten shots with each leg.

How to Improve Your Shooting Form Like MJ: 5 TipsHow to Improve Your Shooting Form Like MJ: 5 Tips

Here are some times to help you shoot like Michael Jordan:

1. Full Arm Extension

Michael Jordan fully extended his shooting arm during his jump shot, giving it direction and momentum. This full extension also ensured consistency, something crucial in shooting.

2. Elbow Tuck

Like many great shooters, Jordan’s elbow was always directly under the ball. This ensured a straight shot and also aided with power whenever he had to force a contested jumper.

3. Follow Through

Jordan’s follow-through after each shot was quite distinct. He maintained his follow-through until the ball reached the hoop, which is key in applying backspin on the basketball.

 4. Shot Release

Rather than shooting on the way up, Michael would time his shot release when he was at the very peak of his jump. This timing modulated the arc of his shot, improving his accuracy and precision.

 5. Eyes on the Target

Jordan always kept his eyes on the target; he focused on the rim all through the shot. This typically resulted in his body rotating to an angle that’s square to the basket, an important part of any kind of jump shot. As the old adage goes, “Where the eyes go, the body usually follows.”

3 Best of Michael Jordan's Plays3 Best of Michael Jordan’s Plays

Here are three of the most iconic Michael Jordan jump shots that resonate through the ages.

1. “The shot on Ehlo”

Before the Bulls built a dynasty in Chicago, Jordan was languishing in the Eastern Conference, suffering from one playoff defeat to another. In the 1989 Playoffs, however, Jordan’s fate seems to have turned as the 5th-seeded Bulls went on to defeat the heavily favored 3rd-seeded Cavaliers. And it’s so much sweeter for Jordan as he was the one to close the deal on the Cavs with a now-iconic pull-up mid-ranger over Craig Ehlo right at the buzzer of Game 5.

2. Passing the torch

Jordan gave the young Kobe Bryant a taste of his signature fadeaway multiple times in the NBA. However, seeing them duke it out under the bright lights of the All-Star Game in 1998 was definitely something special.

3. The Last Shot

We can’t do a proper round-up of iconic Michael Jordan moments without including the Last Shot. It was a fitting end to the Bulls’ dynasty as the Bulls’ captain took the buzzer-beating shot in Game 6 of the 1998 NBA Finals.

Wrapping Things Up: How to Shoot Like Michael Jordan?

Michael Jordan’s shooting form is one of the most studied and imitated in the history of basketball. It’s such a potent scoring threat that even Kobe Bryant admits to copying it and adding his own twist.

While it’s impossible to replicate his exact shooting form, not everyone has that kind of hangtime after all. Luckily, some bits and pieces of his shooting form can be easily incorporated into any jump shot, such as the elbow tuck and follow-through. So, if you’re trying to learn how to shoot like Michael Jordan, get yourself to the basketball court and try these tips out!

We hope you enjoyed this post! If you did, be sure to check out our other basketball FAQ articles here.

> How to Shoot Like Kobe Bryant?

> How to Shoot Like Stephen Curry?

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